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An integrated assessment of the vascular plant species of the Americas

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1614-1617
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0398

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The vascular plants of the Americas

Botanical exploration in the Americas has a history that stretches back for half a millennium, with knowledge assembled in diverse regional floras and lists. Ulloa Ulloa et al. present a comprehensive and integrated compilation of all known native New World vascular plant species (see the Perspective by Givnish). This compilation, in a publicly available, searchable database, includes 124,993 species—about one-third of the worldwide total. They further present details of the distribution of species across families and genera, the geographical foci of diversity, and the floristic relationships between regions. The rate of plant species discovery in the Americas averages almost 750 annually, so this valuable resource will continue to grow.

Science, this issue p. 1614; see also p. 1535

Abstract

The cataloging of the vascular plants of the Americas has a centuries-long history, but it is only in recent decades that an overview of the entire flora has become possible. We present an integrated assessment of all known native species of vascular plants in the Americas. Twelve regional and national checklists, prepared over the past 25 years and including two large ongoing flora projects, were merged into a single list. Our publicly searchable checklist includes 124,993 species, 6227 genera, and 355 families, which correspond to 33% of the 383,671 vascular plant species known worldwide. In the past 25 years, the rate at which new species descriptions are added has averaged 744 annually for the Americas, and we can expect the total to reach about 150,000.

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